Last week ended with a black day for journalism. Shujaat Bukhari, a senior journalist, and editor of Rising Kashmir, a Srinagar based newspaper was shot dead by unknown gunmen before leaving for an Iftar party at press enclave. His assassination sent shivers down the spine, bringing into question whether the pen was mightier than the gun.
Shujaat Bhukari was known across the country for his bold, profound and well-articulated way of putting forth views in an artistic yet creative manner. He deeply cared about his motherland, perpetuating discussions that encouraged peace over radicalisation and violence. Incidents like that of Bhukari makes me contemplate how vulnerable we have become towards intolerance and opinionated views.
The Kashmir valley over the years has been witness to violence, bloodshed terror and shutdowns. The mainland journalists have been covering the ground realities apart from what is being shown in the news channels. There is a hell lot of difference between these two approaches.
The death of journalists is not new in Indian occupied Kashmir. Earlier, there have been incidents of journalists losing their lives while on duty, but now things have changed. Just like in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia, a Maltese journalist, mainly known for covering political issues. For several years, despite receiving threats and daunting warnings, her attitude towards her profession didn’t change. Her earnestness became her cause of death – she was killed in a car bomb attack in Peugeot.
Last year, Gauri Lankesh, who used to write for Lankesh Patrike, an Indian vernacular newspaper published in the Kannada language, was gunned down. Lankesh had a left-leaning outlook and had forthright views on Hindutva politics.
Another incident that shook the nation took place in the northeast. Santanu Bhowmik, a Tripura based journalist, used to work for the Dinrat news channel. Bhowmik was laid to rest and silenced forever for speaking the truth. His field of expertise? Political developments in Tripura.
Neither was Shujaat a government stooge whom the militant groups could catch hold of nor was he against the Indian Government. He had a strong voice and always supported issues on the grounds of morality and truth.
Why was he killed then?
The murders of journalists have always led to shock and outrage, more because such incidents are an attack on the freedom of the press, which apparently is the fourth pillar of democracy. Such attacks have caused the cruellest silencing of the most fearless journalists and activists. We live in the world where speaking the truth can make a person fall into great trouble. But deaths of journalists like that in case of Shujaat, Santanu or Gauri – episodic attacks like these are basically hindering the freedom of speech and expression.
The Article 19(A) of our Constitution, granting every citizen of our citizen the freedom of speech and expression, is considered the basic freedom by most philosophical thinkers, consisting of various facets including the right to express one’s opinion unhindered, uttered by the fear of retribution. It is one of the most basic elements for a healthy, open-minded democracy, allowing people to participate in the social and political happenings of their country.
But the question arises – is that truly executed?
The author is a student of journalism and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org